It was my dear dad’s 60th birthday last week, and on a recent trip to Walton-on-Thames he noted a glut of pubs all in close proximity to one another. So, he decided that we should do a crawl from the river into town in honour of his 60 years. I was hoping to get a variety of real ale on the way, and was also crossing my fingers that there might be some craft beer available at at least one of the pubs…
It was a beautiful, warm, sunny September day when we arrived at The Anglers, the outside bustling with afternoon drinkers. We went in to the comparatively quiet bar make our choices – my brother and I heading straight for the “Anglers Tackle” (claimed to be brewed exclusively for this pub, but a little research has shown it to be Sharps “Cornish Coaster”). A very easy drinker, light in flavour with a delicate hop edge, and slightly sweet on the tongue. Ideal for an afternoon in the sunshine, by a river. As, indeed, we were. If we were staying, this would have been a great session beer.
Good selection of other ales, lagers and bottles (including Brooklyn Lager and a few Belgians) meant everyone got what they wanted (Sol, Savannah and Peroni). So we went outside to enjoy our drinks while people wandered by with their dogs on the tow path, and boats glided down the river in front of us.
The next pub on our list was The Swan, about 20 paces from The Anglers. We walked through the large, sectioned garden, past 2 outside bars and into the pub proper and we were greeted by the wonderful green and yellow of Meantime’s London brews on tap. My brother and I went straight for the London Pale Ale which was deliciously crisp and cold, with a healthy and thirst-quenching hoppiness and bitterness. While at the bar we also tried the Oxfordshire Ales Marshmellow, which was very nice, smooth and had a hint of, well, marshmallow. Suprisingly pleasant, and great for a more autumnal day. They also had 3 Youngs ales on tap, but we didn’t try those. My dad told the barman we were on a pub crawl, to which the barman remarked, “Most people end up staying here”.
We found a table outside and enjoyed probably the last of the very little sunshine that we’ve seen this summer, then promptly moved on to our next pub as we had 7 planned.
The Masons Arms looked pleasant from afar, like a little manor house. On entering, we were looked at by the 4 locals as if inquiring who we were. Not put off, we headed to the bar and I ordered a Doom Bar whilst I visited the loo. As my dad later commented, he’s smelt better toilets at a festival. I left, looking forward to a nice, clear, toffee, hoppy ale…but was sorely disappointed. Slightly cloudy, in poor condition and tasting, frankly, brown. The ladies chose sparkling water (much to the annoyance of the barman who had to go out back to get another bottle) and my dad had a Stella Artois. The choice was limited.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay long but we did absorb some more sunshine on their benches out the front.
The next pub was The Bear, but after a quick reccy we decided it was probably in the same category as the last pub so skipped it. Also skipped the wine bar, as it looked a bit poncy and dead. So, onto The George Inn. The worryingly light and sparse wood interior made it feel more like a barn than a pub, and the small selection of ales, lagers and bottles didn’t enthuse us any more. My brother and I went for a Shepherd Neame Late Red, which was actually pretty good, if not entirely appropriate for the day. Since it was a Shepherd Neame pub they had Oranjeboom on tap, which I think is always a nice refreshing lager. My wife, however, did not agree.
We found a table in the garden out the back and whilst supping our drinks discussed out next move. There was The Regent nearby, and whilst it being a Wetherspoons guaranteed a decent ale selection, the only outside space was 2 tables on the main road. So, on reflection, we decided to go back to The Swan. It seems the bartender was right.
We headed back to the river, found another table in the grassy area of the garden this time, and I plumped for the London Lager (well, all that walking made me parched). Excellently suited to the warm day, packed full of flavour but still with a refreshing hoppiness and citrus finish. We stayed there for another one too before the cab whisked us off to dinner. Well, why spoil a good thing, eh?
So, if you want to do a crawl in Walton, my advice is to stick to the 2 riverside gems: The Anglers and The Swan.